Parents often say to me that they really want their child to do yoga. My classes in Edinburgh concentrate on children with anxiety and insomnia aged 9-11. Other classes I know about are run by Tatty Bumpkins, at the Sacred Heart Centre and the Shanti Collective. However sometimes fitting in various children’s activities around school and life in general can be tough and yoga at home can be a good alternative.
Children really do copy what they see. My three boys have always practiced yoga, as they have always seen me head up to our attic to practice, or leave the house to go to a class, workshop or occasionally a yoga weekend.
Although their interest can be intermittent, getting them their own yoga mats as birthday presents was an absolute winner a couple of years ago. They line them up and take turns in taking the class and instructing each other. If I’m going to practice during the day and they are at home I will always make a point of telling them as inevitably one if not all three will come and join me. It’s a lovely thing to share with your child and simple to do even if you only know some of the basic postures. So, it’s definitely beneficial to do a term of beginners classes for adults to understand and get to know some of the poses.
For when they find themselves on their own I have the Yoga Pretzel cards which are great. The bright pictures are ideal for younger children and the description on how to do the pose on the back of each card helps older children with the finer details. The partner poses can be done with siblings or a parent.
In the classes I have taught to younger children (ages 3-8) I’ve created a class around a theme or topic. Children love a story and you can even make it up as you go along. Incorporating mountain or tree pose into a story can be simple and there are so many poses named after animals – downward dog, cat, cobra and lion to name just a few. They can create their own stories and even make up poses. ‘I am Yoga’ is a book with yoga poses incorporated into it and can make a lovely 20 minute class at bedtime.
I always try to include a little yoga philosophy in my classes. This encourages the children to think about themselves, their behaviour towards others as well as concepts like being honest. I can recommend Naomi Howarth’s The Crow’s Tale is a beautiful book about resilience, kindness, compassion and reflection.
Finally, the breath is an integral part of any yoga practice. A lovely technique is Bumble Bee breath where sitting cross legged (adults sit on a bit of height to make it more comfortable!) take a breath in through the nose and then hum the breath out. You can invite your child to put their hands over their ears to encourage them to focus on the sound.
Another breath to try is balloon breath. Sitting as before and resting their hands on they tummy they take a breath in through their nose and feel it fill their lungs and then their tummy so it feels like a balloon being blown up and then out agin through the nose. Doing this slowly and maybe even counting to 1 banana 2 banana 3 banana 4 banana as they breath in and the same as they breath out.
Practicing yoga with children can be so rewarding; just go with the flow and let them take the lead. The path you go on together can lead you up a mountain, to discover a tree with a lion basking in the shade 😉